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Showing posts from September, 2007

Detail

One of my passions is photography. I love the whole process--from that split second when you see a moment--or a shifting of light that must be captured--to experimenting with a photo to bring out its fullest beauty.

Often I find a detail that might otherwise be overlooked when considered as part of a greater whole; revealed as exquisitely beautiful when the photo is cropped.

In the same way, a detail of significance in scripture can be easily "read past."

The "greater whole" of scripture is essential to consider, but there is a special blessing in focusing in on a passage and allowing God, through the Holy Spirit, to speak through it, revealing a significant truth, or rich depth of meaning that I had not seen before.

Recently God spoke through several verses about being an example, or following an example. I thought of Jesus saying, "Do this in remembrance of me," Luke 22:19 as he distributed the bread and the wine of the Passover.

In September 29th's Dail…

Heading Home.

By Susan Stewart
Black smudges of smoky grey clouds rise from the northern horizon like ominous harbingers of darkness, haunting a sky that glows a clear and endless purple-rose in the deepening twilight. I pop in my latest audio book as I turn my car south, heading home at the end of another crazy-busy workday. Rising and falling over hill and dale, my senses are fully aware of the beauty of the evening sky, the perfect backdrop for listening to Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller.

I'm loving that book. Loving it. I'm glad I bought the audio version. The words are read aloud by the author himself and so with certain inflections that might be missed by a different reader. Those words are not only filling my ears, but reaching down to grab my soul - hard - and give it a good shake. I can't wait to read - or should I say, "listen to" - the sequel.

Hearing Donald Miller, as close and as real as if he was sitting there in the passenger seat, reveal his deepest thoughts, op…

A Test Already

A steaming mug of coffee in my hand, I drove the early morning highway south. I'm not usually on the road quite as early as I was today but I was meeting two colleagues at a car pool and had a drive of ten minutes or so to get there.

As I drove into the new day, with a pale full moon hanging in the blue sky above, I passed the rich farm land that is the Holland Marsh. The roofs of the small, neat houses of the community of Ansnorveldt poked up through a morning mist that hung over the fields, looking like the lost city of Atlantis, surfacing from the ocean waves.

Although part of me was noticing, appreciating and absorbing every detail of the passing scene, my mind was preoccupied with a comment left on my blog post of today. I had hastily read it as I prepared to leave the house and I'd had no time to respond. I'd been so taken aback at the contents of the comment that I didn't even know what I would have said.

My friend Poppy, mother of my 14 year old godson, Jacob, had…

Would Jesus Recognize His Church?

Judges 17:6 (New International Version)
6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

I wish I'd heard more of the interview, but it was a tantalizing clip that I heard on the fly from one place to another and I couldn't stick around to hear the end. It was on CBC radio--an American soldier speaking of interrogating a prisoner in Iraq. He described the man; tall and slim of frame, with long feet and toes, and long fingers.

The prisoner made no argument against the things he was accused of but he asked the soldier a question; "Are you a Christian?"

"Yes," said the soldier.

"You are not following the teachings of Jesus, to love your enemies and turn the other cheek," the prisoner replied.

The hours the soldier spent talking to this man, changed his perspective.

My point is not to comment on the war; the issues are complex. But the prisoner's question cannot be ignored as a challenge to all who call themselves by the name of Christ. Ar…

Saving the Day

This morning the world seemed all gray and saffron as I drove along gray pavement, with a tongue of yellow, guiding the way.

A school bus, as yellow as goldenrod, passed me by and ripe corn stood, richly golden--traces of green almost completely gone.

Even the sun hung gloriously in a sky full of clouds that rolled restlessly and fretfully--angry dark gray over white-gray.

The world looked like a black and white photo in which only yellow had been highlighted.

I thought of the days that I've described. Each one seems engraved somehow in my memory.

There was an autumn day when the world looked like a glamourous woman, aware of her beauty, bold and confident, not coy or self conscious.

I remember the day last winter when a veil of snow drifted across the fields as if held by some invisible hand.

And this spring when a rich brown field was to my eye, a nut brown shoulder, over which was flung a mantle of rich mossy green.

A sudden variation on the golden theme took me by surprise. From above…

Tonight

Deuteronomy 4:7 (New International Version)
7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?

We gathered, drawn together by a common bond, a desire to deepen our roots in the faith but also by a hunger for community and fellowship.

This night each week is when the tables are set for as many as come and a meal is a gathering place.

Tonight three or four different conversations were going on all at once over dinner. Two little girls in pajamas and fluffy housecoats were deep in conversation with Andrew, who has the priceless ability to converse with children and apparently enjoy it as much as they do. They are making precious memories and learning that their words are valued and taken seriously. This is one adult that listens and talks back--what a gift he is to them.

The meal was ready later than usual, and Susan P. and Michelle had to leave at 8.00--they both rise early for work, so we had prayer after supper so th…

Spending Life

Ephesians 5:15-17 (New International Version)
15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

The scripture reference above came in an email from Harold Taylor today, with a note to say that these verses drive home the importance of time for him.

He also said:
"I will be interviewed by Christine Williams, On the Line, on CTV 2 PM October 3rd. This time it's stress and I suppose I'll be talking about the relationship between time and stress. Eli Bay, stress specialist, will be on the same program."

It sounds like something to mark on our calendars and watch if we can!
_________________________________________________

Isaiah 30:18 (New International Version)
18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

As I read this verse be…

Life Time

Isaiah 64:4 (New International Version)
4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

I've been thinking a lot about time this weekend. It all started on Saturday morning, listening to Fresh Air with Jeff Goodes on CBC radio as I got ready for the day. Jeff's guest that morning, Harold Taylor, said that people have it all wrong when they think about organizing their time. He said that we should really think about spending "life" not "time" because that's what we're really doing--spending our lives.

"Spending life"--that does have a different feel to it than merely "spending time." It was a bit of a wake up call.

I want to spend my life--every minute of it--in a way that leaves me with no regrets--but I struggle to understand how to do that and am thankful for any words of wisdom on the subject.

I visited Harold's web site, http://www.ta…

Terry Harris, Master Encourager Part 2

By Susan Stewart

I ran into Terry Harris last weekend, and I couldn't wait to tell him how the words I heard him speak had impacted me. Two years later I still feel the impact of that speech - and will for the rest of my life. His response was notable. He was sitting in front of a full plate of food waiting to take his first bite. I had the feeling I was being more than a little rude, so I tried to talk fast in order to let him get to his meal as quickly as possible. Terry didn't seem to mind my intrusion at all. He put down his fork and looked intently into my eyes as I spoke, repeating back to me some of the things I said by way of affirmation. He looked for all the world to be hanging on to every word I said. At that moment in time I felt like the most important person in the world to him, and I'll bet I was! He thanked me profusely for giving him that feedback and then asked me if I had a CD of his talk that day, recordings of which had been available to buy.

I had to sa…

Terry Harris, Master Encourager Part 1

s"Encouragement"

My etymology dictionary tells me it's a word that comes from the French "corage" and means "to produce courage", or "to put courage into".
I've also heard it explained that to encourage another means to actually break off a little piece of your own courage and put it into someone else - "sharing the wealth", so to speak. I love that idea, don't you? Breaking off a piece of your own courage to invest it in another life and then watching it produce courage in them, too.

Terry Harris is the embodiment of that concept. He is a "Master Encourager".

I heard Terry speak a couple of years ago at a managers training in Orillia. I was transfixed by his words at the time and they have never left me. He talked about how he has learned to turn "obstacles" into "opportunities", and not stopping there, he does everything he can to encourage others to do the same.

"Master Encouragers", T…

Gems

Philippians 1:6 (New International Version)
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It was a few days ago that I pushed the large empty shopping cart into Costco, clutching my shopping list for the spaghetti supper fundraiser.

As I passed a large, illuminated display case, I stopped to gaze for a moment at things that were not on my list.

The case held shelves filled with graceful figurines; ladies in colourful ballgowns, skirts forever frozen in mid swirl--heads tilted just so. Their hands daintily held fans, or bouquets, or gathered skirts above tiny ankles.

It was the jewelery, though, that captured my attention and I admired the colours of the gem stones and the design of the various pieces.

"What is an "olive onyx?" someone asked.

She was short woman and stockily built, with short, reddish blond hair and she was addressing me. We must have looked like children at a toy store window at Ch…

Grateful

It's the week of the great Spaghetti Supper and we are up to our eyeballs in meatballs, noodles, apples and pastry. We're all working hard to raise money this Saturday for children with disabilities, living on the streets of countries less fortunate than Canada. So this morning Frank, Greg, Susan and Martha gathered in my kitchen and we peeled, chopped, stirred and laughed together. Greg was making the sauce, opening many cans--adding ingredients from a tried and true recipe--in vast quantities. It takes a lot of sauce to feed 100 people. "Are you sure it's really 3 cups of sugar I have to add to this?" he asked. I went over to double check the recipe, yes, it was 3 cups--and noticed that Greg was part way through adding 3 cups of salt, not sugar, from the unmarked container on the table! The recipe only called for 1/2 a cup of salt! Greg's eyes widened in horror. "Noooo--are you serious?" he said. He couldn't quite believe that I wasn't jokin…

What DO You Have?

This morning as I was preparing for work, I was overwhelmed at the thought of all the unfinished work I was about to face. I knew I had left my desk covered with a dozen projects, all unfinished, urgently interrupted at various stages of completion and in complete disorder. My "current" file is fast approaching three inches thick, and I have a number of deadlines bearing down on me. Not to mention the on-going demands of a very busy and ever-changing work environment. Don't get me wrong. I love my job, and perhaps it's the very nature of it - no two days, or even two hours are ever alike and I am in a constant state of going from crisis to crisis - which, believe it or not, is what I actually enjoy the most. However, that does leave the problem of getting everything back into order at some point and disciplining myself to stick to and finish some of the more mundane (and not so enjoyable) administrative aspects of my job - even when there are no stretches of uninterr…

I Don't Get God

Judges 13:24-25 (New International Version)
24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the LORD blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him...

Sometimes I just don't get God.

I'm reading my way through the book of Judges right now and this morning was reading about a guy named Samson.

Reading the Bible, historical accounts of real people's lives, is sometimes like watching one of those movies where you want to yell out, "No! Don't do it! Are you crazy?"

It makes Paul crazy because I actually do yell things out when I watch movies. I've never been able to watch quietly or with detachment!

Samson's conception was announced by an angel, which seems to have thrown his parents-to-be into a bit of a flap, as no doubt it would.

He was by all accounts destined for something pretty special, "set apart for God," "for the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines," is what the angel said.

Someth…

Because of Who He Is

Psalm 100:5 (New International Version)
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

The last few weeks have been so busy that I haven't have much time for reading. There is still a lot happening but I'm finding some precious time to get back to reading--a little at least!

Someone asked me recently if I ever read fiction. I grew up on the classics. I loved fiction--but although I consider it a weakness that I want to rectify, I rarely read fiction as an adult. I find myself drawn to books that challenge my thinking--that teach, or inspire me to grow.

I'm almost finished Alan Reynold's book, A Troubled Faith, published by Word Alive. I've enjoyed reading and thinking my way through it. Alan is a retired minister of the United Church, who lives in B.C.

In the chapter I'm reading, The Heart's True Home, Alan describes his journey to belief in Jesus's physical and spiritual resurrection. He had initially…

The Goodness of God

Hebrews 11:6 (New International Version)
6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

I read the devotional verses in a hurry--not my usual leisurely Saturday morning filled with family and time to reflect. I had to be somewhere and needed to leave early.

But as I read the Daily Light, these verses leaped out at me and seemed to say; "What you believe about God is as important as believing in him."

So here I am at the end of my busy Saturday, trying to articulate that thought sensibly.

Our thoughts about God can be affected by all sorts of things, but he isn't a fairy tale, created by a flight of fancy made up to suit our liking--he is real and revealed in the pages of the Bible, through story and account. And to that can be added our experience of who he is.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews is saying that as well as believing that God is, we must believe …

Two Kinds of Pleasure

I was at two very different gatherings yesterday.

Last night we went to a concert with friends. It was fun - on the surface, anyway. The singer and his band have a tiny cult following and play in small towns, folk festivals, and county fairs all over North America. Last night they were in Alliston, and because one of Ron's close friends loves this guy's quirky slant on life, delivered on a country platter (you couldn't get more "country"), we went too. We were expecting "a cultural experience" and that's exactly what we got. A very down-home-rural-Ontario-country-music kind of experience. It was entertaining. We smiled a lot, looked down at the floor when one or two of the jokes unfortunately went a little off-colour, but for the most part enjoyed the nostalgic imagery this fellow stirred up in us as he sang about things like John Deere tractors and White Rose gas stations. (Remember White Rose? And Supertest?)

The other gathering I was part of yester…

Back

Yesterday our team of 25 or so northern managers and area managers, gathered in Dwight; in the beautiful Lake of Bays area, not far from Algonquin Provincial Park. We stayed overnight, then had a one day working retreat.
It was a weary group that gathered. Getting away isn't easy, but once there, you could see people unwind and relax.
Last night there was a camp fire on the shore. I hear there was a guitar and laughter. Some sank gratefully into bed early. I retreated to my room for precious alone time. To some a retreat means people--to me a retreat means...retreat--although I love people too.
Before breakfast Terry ran 6 kilometers--she's training for a half marathon. Gloria walked and Susan sat out on the dock watching the mist roll in from the lake.
I sat on the little balcony outside the cabin room and listened.
I heard Terry return from her run with a tired sigh. A few minutes later, down below, I heard her banging her running shoes together to loosen the mud from their sole…

Tension Point

Psalm 139:1-3 (New International Version)
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

This morning I'm wondering about the tension between forgiving and offence and letting it go--and the importance of working it through to complete understanding.

Forgiveness--God just won't let us off the hook for it--and yet it's a complex business.

I read an amazing book by John Bevere years ago, The Bait of Satan. The "bait," is offense. The Enemy can ensnare us and poison us with the toxicity of an offense allowed to fester in a soul. I've bought and given away that book several times, and currently don't have it on my book shelf. I'll be buying it again, for it's a book I find helpful.

In the book I'm currently reading, How to Have That Difficult Conversation You…

Weary Warriors

Galatians 6:9 (New International Version)
9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Tonight I feel tired, but I'm grateful for a bed that waits in the next room and the hours of cool, dark night that still remain before tomorrow. Outside the house a moisture laden wind blows, sounding like the rushing waves of the ocean, but inside all is still and quiet.

There are times when it seems like there are just more things to do than time to do them in and I end up feeling scattered, disorganized and failing because I just can't get it all done.

I'm grateful for helping hands, like my dear friend Susan, who led cell group tonight--and Ann, who brought dessert, when I had forgotten all about it, reminding me that God knows.

I need to lean into others more, I know that.

I don't think I've ever aimed for perfection, but the longer I live, the more grateful I am to just make it through, hitting the most important thi…

Hymn on a Highway

A pale sun hung in a sky of beaten silver as I drove in the morning rush hour.

The "rush hour" turned out not to be--anything but--it gave ample opportunity for staring at the world I passed by slowly.

A row of corn topped with rusty gold tassels stood on a high bank, silhouetted against the light blue sky, like a fringed Persian rug.

Bull rushes back lit by the morning sun, filled the ditches between the north and south lanes of Highway 404. It was a place of glory.

Returning home I took the back way through the country and saw signs for Balsam and Claremont and Myrtle--pretty, old fashioned names--and drove past more ditches resplendent with grasses, goldenrod, bull rushes--all fringed and fronded!

Corn fields on every hand, were busy whispering secrets to the wind.

And I was absolutely drunk with the beauty of the day.

Psalm 150 1-6
The Message
Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship,
praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
praise him for his ma…

Granddaughters

Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version)
11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

It was Saturday; otherwise known as Pancake Day in our home. I had the coffee made (top priority) and was sifting flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

I heard soft footsteps--someone else was up. It was a pajama clad Tiffany-Amber, who I put my arms around for a good morning hug--Tiffany-Amber, long and lean of body, with long, straight, dark blond hair and serious, dreamy eyes--with a sensitive artist's soul.

She began helping, cracking eggs and fetching the electric beaters from the drawer.

"How was school?" I asked.

"Fine," she said, and told me what she'd been doing in the first four days.

I asked which grade she'd just started and she told me, "Four."

"Four, already?" I said, in amazement.

"Yes," said Tiffany-Amber, her face…

Humility Check

1 Samuel 2:3 (New International Version)
3 "Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.

I need no other word to maintain a position of humility than this, "The Lord is a God who knows."

How easy it is to look at people who are struggling--or not--with obvious sin and think of them as different to me.

How like the Pharisee, in the story told in Luke 18:10-14, whom I imagine pulling his robes tightly around himself, as he thanked God that he was not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or the tax collector praying with him in the temple.

But when I think about the Lord, who is "a God who knows," I am undone. Suddenly I am the tax collector, who would not even raise his eyes to heaven. And I say with him, "God be merciful to me, a sinner."

Lord, forgive me for forgetting sometimes who I am. Thank you for reminding me today that you know. Make my heart as tender t…

Who's Following Who?

This morning I had to go to court one more time to fight a speeding ticket. Now, if I get a ticket and I deserve it, I pay it. I may grumble and complain a little, but I pay it. Okay, some of you know I grumble and complain a lot! But I pay it.

This time was different. I don’t doubt I was speeding, but I did have serious doubts about the officer's observations and what he was offering as evidence.

This morning was my fourth court appearance for the same ticket. It’s a long and complicated story, and I won’t bore you with the details, but let me tell you as succinctly as I can what God did.

I was SO nervous. A courtroom can be a very intimidating place and the characters on the stage are not often very helpful to you standing up there when you’re not used to things and don’t know the correct procedures and you don't even speak the same language! (Legalese.) In fact there is serious danger of your ignorance, not to mention your lower intelligence, being taken advantage of at every …

Bizarre

Romans 3:23-25 (New International Version)
23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.

The phone rang and it was Frances on the other end sharing an epiphany. As she spoke I grabbed my pen and started to write. I almost always want to write what she says.

Once when I tried to convince her to write herself, she said, "I have a hard enough time keeping up with my thoughts in spoken words, but if I was trying to write, my mind would be on word number 10,000 and my pen would be at word number two!”

So it's up to me and often I try to write her words down as they flow out at high speed.

This morning God was working out in her something wonderful. She was the friend in the post of September…

Secret Places

I was talking with a friend today, who shares a love of reading.

We tend to like the same kinds of books--books that challenge us and make us think about things in new ways--so I'm always interested in what he's reading and often go out and buy that book because I know I'll love it.

So what he's reading now is, A Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God: Spirituality for the Rest of Us by Larry Osborne. The conversation got around to books because we were talking about sin and the fact that we are all capable of self deception and sin. The writer of this book, he said, talked about how sin grows in secret places, like fungus in the dark and damp.

He continued to share how the author spoke of the inadequacy of accountability groups because you can lie to them. He said he tries instead, to live as much of his life as possible, out in open places where he can be seen, because for him, that is safety.

I thing there's much wisdom in those words. In some ways I've done that…

Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:12 (New International Version)
12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

Labour Day felt like Christmas to me--but without the pressure.

In the morning I met with some friends for tea at Starbucks inside Chapters. I brought along a pie for two of them--the biggest and best I knew how to bake, and I came home with a book that looks and sounds really interesting and which I look forward to reading--a gift from one of the friends.

Later, in the evening, I met with other friends to celebrate a birthday in the city. We had a wonderful celebration--Swiss Chalet this time. One of those friends had brought a book for me and a CD--even though I wasn't the birthday celebrant.

Gifts given--pie, books Cd's--but the deeper gifts were the gifts of ourselves. The best gifts we could give anyone.

Our German friend left for the airport between the tea party and supper. As she stood in the d…

He Meets Us Where We Are

In Amy Carmichael's Edges of His Ways for today, she shared a thought that was beautiful, in relation to reading the Bible.

Using the analogy of a light shining on a body of water, whether the sun, moon, or a bright planet such as Venus, she said that from where a person was standing, they would see a path beginning--no matter if a hundred people stood in different places along the shore.

In the same way Amy said that no matter where people read from the Bible, they would find a path leading them from that place, straight to the heart of God.

That made me think of the fact that God meets all of us where we are and that the same thing applies. Thank goodness that we don't have to reach an exalted status spiritually to come to God, but simply have to have an open heart. Then, if we will only look up we will see a shining path leading to him.

Mark 2:15-17 (New Living Translation)
15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collector…

Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh

Proverbs 15:13 (New Living Translation)
13 A glad heart makes a happy face;
a broken heart crushes the spirit.

I went to the mall on the spur of the moment, intending to pop in and get something quickly. It was the week before school started and it looked busy. On top of that, with a great sense of timing, the front parking lot of the mall was being repaved, so whole sections of it were cordoned off. Driving in I squeezed my car past various pieces of construction equipment and made my way to the edge of the parking lot where I found a little oasis of concrete with nothing going on. I noticed a few pylons, but didn't pay too much attention to them.

Half an hour later, I returned to find my car surrounded by machinery and a construction crew. You know when you come upon a group of people who are waiting for you...they have a certain air...There was a short, stockily built Italian man who seemed to be in charge. He looked at me in amazement and said, "Lady, is this your car?"

T…

Flawed yet Favoured

Isaiah 6:1-8 (The Message)
by Eugene H. Peterson
Holy, Holy, Holy!
1-8 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Master sitting on a throne—high, exalted!—and the train of his robes filled the Temple. Angel-seraphs hovered above him, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew. And they called back and forth one to the other,

Holy, Holy, Holy is God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
His bright glory fills the whole earth.The foundations trembled at the sound of the angel voices, and then the whole house filled with smoke. I said,

"Doom! It's Doomsday!

I'm as good as dead!Every word I've ever spoken is tainted—
blasphemous even!
And the people I live with talk the same way,
using words that corrupt and desecrate.
And here I've looked God in the face!
The King! God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
"Then one of the angel-seraphs flew to me.
He held a live coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.
He touched my mouth with the coal…